Day 308: Julius and Irene When No One Else Would

“He has AIDS.  His mother doesn’t want him.  Nobody does.  Will you take him?”

These are all too familiar words heard in the slums of Cape Town, South Africa by Irene and Julius.  Who are Irene and Julius?  I’m glad you asked, because I’d love to share their story!

Barcelona slum on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa

Nineteen years ago, an HIV positive mother, armed with a black plastic bag only, headed to the local train station with the intention of killing herself.  Community members contacted the police who picked up the woman, throwing the plastic bag into the back of their truck.  They were planning to dispose of it…until it started moving.

What they discovered inside should have shocked them, but sadly it did not.  It was a tiny baby, still living and breathing, but thrown away like trash.  The mother had intended on killing the baby too.  They brought this precious bundle to the hospital, where they discovered he also had AIDS.  He was treated and cared for, however, after he had recovered, they couldn’t figure out what to do with him.  No one wanted him.  Then someone mentioned Julius and Irene.

Who are Julius and Irene?  They would consider themselves missionaries/pastors who were called to serve in the slum areas just outside of Cape Town, a slum called Barcelona.  At first they were frightened to go, as there was no electricity, a lot of violence, and much crime.  Trusting God, they took the risk, moving there with their three young children.  Until that point, no one had dared move to this area and begin a church.

Irene caught in a rare moment of standing still

Irene caught in a rare moment of standing still

Little did they expect that one day soon after arriving, a local social worker would bring to them a 4 year old girl, whose father had been abusing her.  She desperately needed a safe home, so they agreed to take her in, and love her like their own.  The next opportunity to serve came quickly, as they also took on the full time care of their own grandchildren, as both their mother (Irene and Julius’ daughter) and father had died from HIV/AIDS.

As they took on this role, it was made very clear to Julius and Irene that there were many other children in their predicament who were desperate for warmth, love, and safety.  And so…they took on 7 more foster children.  Some were severely neglected by their own families while others were orphans, having had their parents die from HIV/AIDS.  As the years went by, more kids were added to their numbers.  Many of the children had also contracted HIV, making it close to impossible to find them a loving  home.  Julius and Irene were stretched to the limit, with very few resources, and yet God has always provided.  They now have 23 children living with them in their humble home, right in the middle of the slums.  Below is a shot of laundry day, but with that many children, I’m guessing that laundry day is every day!

I had the opportunity to sit down, one on one with 67-year old Irene and talk to her about their lives, their ministry, and the dear children in their care while Ryan and the kids did some arts and crafts with the kids.  Sitting on my knee was the newest member of their family, whose story I will share in a moment.

Our time together was sad and encouraging at the same time, as Irene shared with me the many stories of each of the children.  I will share just one or two more with you, to give you a sense of what these children have been through and how dire their situation really is, here in the slums of Cape Town.

The Baby:  Let’s start with this little one above, just 7 months old, smiling sweetly, tentatively, but not yet being verbal or babbling.  At 2 months old, his mother no longer wanted him.  My first thought was that he had contracted AIDS, but no…he was a completely healthy baby.

Talking to a friend on the streets, the mother said she was going to get rid of her little one by throwing him into a storm drain.  Irene’s sister-in-law, walking behind her, overheard the threat, and begged her to not kill her child, but instead to bring him to Irene.  Though she agreed, when she asked Irene to take him from her, Irene at first would not agree.  She was already overwhelmed and couldn’t imagine taking on one other child.

At this point the mother said, “Well, I’m done with him, so if you don’t take him, I will kill him!”

Hearing this, Julius stepped in and said, “No, we’ll take him.”  Turning to his wife, he told her, “Irene, we can’t send him back with her.  She’ll really do it!”  And so they did take him in.  Five months later, he is a healthy, thriving 7 month old.  He still does not attempt to speak or babble, so who knows what he went through in those first few months, but while I was holding him, he continued to giggle and smile sweetly.  It was obvious to see how loved he was by his new family.

Irene encouraged the mother to come and visit him, but in the past 5 months, she only saw him twice and then stopped coming.  Irene ran into her a few weeks ago, and saw that his mother was pregnant again.  Now she prays that God will keep her new baby safe.

Kathryn snuggling with our sweet boy

Kathryn snuggling with our sweet boy

The Twins:  Twelve years ago, the mother of two twin girls just a few months old, died of AIDS in her home, leaving her twins alone and helpless.  Two days later, after hearing screaming and crying coming from the home, neighbors finally called police.  They were confronted with a very sad sight…that of two twin babies laying beside their mother, trying to nurse but unable to do anything else.

An ambulance was called immediately and the babies were transported to the hospital, but on the way there, one of the twins died.  Thankfully, the other twin baby girl survived.  The social worker was unable to find anyone willing to care for the surviving baby.  Even her grandmother refused to take her in, as she had also contracted AIDS.  At a loss for what to do, the social worker yet again turned to Irene and Julius, who, although their house was filled to overflowing, agreed to take in this precious little baby.

We had the opportunity to meet this young lady, now a healthy, happy 12 year old.  Although she was diagnosed with HIV many years ago, recent testing indicated that it is no longer a threat in her life.  Irene and Julius offer no explanations except to say that God is good!  Indeed He is!

One of Irene's faithful helpers

One of Irene’s faithful helpers

Irene and Julius would love your help.  They do get a little funding for 4 of the 23 children they have taken in, because they have been legally adopted.  The others, however, have no documentation or legal standing with them, as it was impossible to obtain the correct paperwork, given that many of them were completely abandoned and/or “thrown” away.  They rely on God and the donations of those willing to come alongside them.

As of this writing, Irene and Julius have 23 children, from 8 months to 19 years old. If this is a ministry you would like to assist with, please let me know and I will help you help them!  And remember, if you can’t help with financial assistance, do keep them in your hearts, your minds, and your prayers, sharing their stories with others.

8 Comments on “Day 308: Julius and Irene When No One Else Would

  1. Talk about doing God’s work, literally saving children from the brink of death. I hope God continues to shore them up and give them the strength they need to do this challenging work!

  2. How did you find them?

    I am touched at the number of ministries you manage to visit. All of them sound precious.

    Julie Wills


    • Hi Julie! We found them through networking with Cyndi R. Her cousin, Steve, lives and works in the Cape Town area. He (Steve) was able to connect us to Lorna and Marty (the people I blogged about in “When People Make a Difference” when we arrived. They have their hands in a lot of different ministries and were so open to helping connect us, as well as allowing us to work alongside them, even though they had just met us. It meant SO much to us!

  3. Pingback: Our Help with the Storage Room | Six Hearts One Journey

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